Sept. 23 was National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Falls prevention should command the attention of all Mainers.

Our state has the nation’s oldest population, one of the highest rates for multiple sclerosis, in addition to many disabled veterans and others living with physical disabilities.

Issues with balance and coordination make people in each of these groups particularly vulnerable to falls, which cost our state an average of $ 16,000 per fall. We can add to this the high toll of falls on quality of life because of hospitalization or premature nursing home placement.

Legislation introduced this year can help reduce falls and related injuries. L.D. 365, Act to Provide a Tax Reduction for Modifications to Make a Home More Accessible for a Person with a Disability, would help the elderly and disabled make accessibility modifications for continued independent living, at a very modest cost to the state.

Rep. Arthur Verow, D-Brewer, sponsored this bill in partnership with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, AARP and Alpha One. It received strong bipartisan support to advance as far as the Appropriations Committee, where it awaits a decision when the session reconvenes in January.

Home modifications, from simple grab bars to ramps or stair lifts, can help the elderly and people living with a disability remain safe in their homes. This tax credit can provide savings (reduced falls, medical care) and improved quality of life (ability to remain independent and safe) that far outweigh its cost.

I want to commend Verow for his leadership in shepherding this bill to this point, and I strongly urge the Appropriations Committee to fully fund the tax credit.

Robin Steinwand, Saint Albans

Volunteer, National MS Society, Maine

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